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What is a Biotope and Why Should I Care?

The region of a habitat associated with a particular ecological community.


Let’s take a journey along a typical tropical river system.

The river starts in the rain forests, deep sluggish waters. And as the water starts it’s journey to the sea and crashes down into tumultuous mountain gorges, through huge freshwater lakes then into the brackish mangrove swamps before the water becomes the sea.<!–more–>

And each section of the river is a separate biotope.

Each of these habitats, or biotopes, have their own physical structures and substances (geology), plant life (flora) and animal life (fauna) and without doubt different water conditions.

So the tropical fish found in these different sections of the river have adapted metabolic processes to help them survive in the local water conditions.

So, obvious to me is that the fish found in these different environments should not be co-located in the same tropical freshwater aquarium.

Expecting a fish evolved in an acid-water biotope to survive in a alkaline water aquarium is like landing on the moon without a spacesuit.

And same goes for trying to compromise by housing both acid and alkaline fish in neutral water conditions. Both fish will suffer and not develop.

Its not only the water chemistry I need to consider here.

The fish found in turbulent rapids or near the lake shore will be more streamlined than fish found in deeper slow moving waters. And they may survive in a well-oxygenated calm water aquarium.

But the sail-finned fish, evolved to glide gracefully through still or slow moving waters will have a hard time keeping up in water that is fast moving.

And it’s not only the shape of the fish I need to consider here.

In the rain forest the fish are found along the river’s edge where the fish can seek shelter in the vegetation, holes in the river bank and amongst the tree roots and fallen branches. The river bottom is covered in layers of dark dead leaves.

Along the rapids, a totally different story. Not much vegetation here. Mostly rocks and large pieces of driftwood jammed between huge boulders. The fish that inhabit this biotope seek shelter in caves and crevices and burrow under boulders.

There can be several different habitats in a large lake: Rocky shores with surf, sandy shallows with aquatic vegetation, muddy river estuaries and everything in between.

So, What is a Biotope?

Hardy community species of tropical freshwater fish are physically robust and can survive in a planted aquarium with a few caves to shelter in.

The more exotic tropical fish will not survive without the security of familiar natural surroundings. For these a biotope aquarium with the correct water chemistry and quality and furniture is needed.

What is a biotope? Decisions, decisions. I’m getting stressed with all these decisions to make.

I thought this was a relaxing hobby…


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